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Diderot at Guggenheim - Art Writing as Literary Genre

Christian Steinau

The dissertation traces the emergence of Art Writing in the second half of the 20th century and intends to read Art Writing as a literary genre in its own right. As part of the creative industries, Art Writing deals with the creative production of knowledge-based analyses and judgments of artworks, exhibitions as well as the historically or systematically questioning of aesthetics and the aesthetic field.

It is based on three conditions: the openness of the artwork, an institutionalization that stabilizes this openness, and the art writer’s rejection of objective norms that determine the aesthetic field. Whereas classical art critique adheres to the status and function of the critical judgment, texts of art writing question the place of judgment. In that respect, Art Writing emphasizes the literary constitution of the production of signs and signification.

Art Writers like Lynne Tillman, Chris Kraus, T.J. Clark, Walter Grasskamp, Brian Dillon, Saul Anton und Jean-Max Colard react to the tectonic shift of the aesthetic field in the 20th century with a literarization and subjectivization of art critique. The analysis of the margin between art critique and art writing, aesthetic judgment and literary production discusses recent research results in literary studies and art history, and complements the expansion of art writing with a recourse to Denis Diderot’s “Salons” as predecessor of a radical subjective and poetic art critique.